Charismatic Leadership and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas: A Matter of Transforming Motives?1

Authors

  • David De Cremer

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Experimental Psychology Maastricht University Maastricht, The Netherlands
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David De Cremer, Department of Experimental Psychology, P.O. Box 616, NL-6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands. E-mail: d.decremer@psychology.unimaas.nl
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  • 1

    The author wishes to thank Cherie Keen for her comments.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David De Cremer, Department of Experimental Psychology, P.O. Box 616, NL-6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands. E-mail: d.decremer@psychology.unimaas.nl

Abstract

The present experiment examined whether leaders high in charisma are able to motivate decision-makers to cooperate more in a public goods dilemma. On the basis of charismatic leadership theories, it was expected that a charismatic leader would be able to transform people's motives beyond self-interest, consequently increasing cooperation. This transformation effect was expected to occur among individuals aimed at maximizing their own self-interest (i.e., pro-selfs), but not among those aimed at maximizing joint or collective outcomes (i.e., pro-socials). Furthermore, leader's charisma was experimentally manipulated by means of describing the leader as either self-sacrificing or benefiting. The results revealed that self-sacrificing leaders, contrary to benefiting leaders, were perceived as more charismatic and were able to motivate decision-makers to cooperate more. The latter effect appeared to be more pronounced among pro-selfs rather than pro-socials, as such supporting the transformational idea of charismatic leaders. Further results showed that this behavioral effect was mediated by perceptions of legitimacy. The meaning and conception of charismatic leadership in decision-making situations are discussed by using insights from the social dilemma and charismatic leadership literature.

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